While laying sod is fast and produces high-quality new turf, seeding a lawn is much cheaper and offers a wider variety of grass types. To learn which grass types are best for your area, contact a local lawn expert or landscaper. Even the clerks at your local garden center can be a well of knowledge.
Much of the labor of starting a lawn from seed is in the all-important prep work, but just as important is watering the seed and sprouts regularly until the new grass is well established.
Keep in mind that you might not need all the supplies listed here. Choose your method for clearing the ground and follow those instructions to determine which supplies and tools you’ll need.
Equipment / Tools
- Flat-bladed shovel
- Sod cutter
- Tiller or rototiller
- Garden rake
- Lawn roller
- Seed spreader
- Water hose and spray nozzle
- Lawn mower
- Non-selective herbicide
- Starter fertilizer
- Soil conditioner or compost
- Soil testing kit
- Garden lime (if needed)
- Lawn seed
Clear The Area
Prior to any digging call 811. 811 is the national call-before-you-dig phone number. Safety first!
Remove any old grass plants and weeds from the area. You can dig out unwanted plants with a flat-bladed shovel, making sure you get the roots. Another method is to apply a non-selective herbicide, then use a rented sod cutter to remove the dead grass and roots.
Test The Soil
Take a sample of the soil and have it tested for soil pH. Most lawn grasses prefer a pH of 6.0 to 7.5. If the test reveals that your soil is overly acidic, you can “sweeten” it by applying garden lime.
Prepare The Soil
Break up the compacted soil with a rented tiller or rototiller. Spread a starter fertilizer over the loosened soil. This type of fertilizer is high in phosphorus, the middle number in the NPK sequence on a fertilizer bag. Also, spread a soil amendment over the soil. “Soil conditioner” is often what it is called at the store, but if you have a good supply of compost at home, it will serve just as well as a soil amendment.
Use the tiller to mix the starter fertilizer and soil conditioner (or equivalent) into the soil. Rake the soil to begin to level it out, removing any rocks and debris. To ensure proper drainage of surface water, make sure that any site grading you do allows water to flow away from your house. Finally, use a rented lawn roller (with a water-filled drum) to finish leveling the soil. Water the soil lightly.
Apply The Seed
Follow the recommended seeding rate (usually this is listed on the bag of grass seed) to apply the seed with a seed spreader. Spread 1/4 of the seed over the entire lawn area. Then, repeat three more times, each time using 1/4 of the seed. However, each of the four times you distribute a load of seed, push the spreader in a different direction, to ensure even coverage. Rake the soil lightly to cover the seed with a thin layer of soil (if recommended by the seed manufacturer). Empty the water from the roller drum, and roll the lawn surface.
Water The New Lawn
Moisten the soil carefully, using a fine spray from a hose sprayer. Be careful not to over-water and create a flood. Repeat watering several times per day (depending on the weather) to keep the soil evenly moist. Do not let the soil dry out. The seeds will germinate and begin to sprout in about 7 to 14 days. Do not walk on or allow pets on any seeded area during this initial phase of growth. The soil is very unstable, and any disturbance will lead to bare areas.
Maintain The New Grass
Continue watering up to three times per day to keep the soil moist (it does not need to be wet) until the new grass is ready to mow: about 4 inches tall, or as recommended on the seed packaging. Mow the grass to no less than 3 inches in height (cut off no more than 1/3 of the total grass blade length). Make sure the grass gets plenty of water until it has grown enough to need three mowings.
From this point on, water the grass with the normal schedule for the area, the current weather, and the type of grass. It’s also a good idea to pull new weeds as they emerge to prevent them from spreading.